Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

How to prevent new starters pulling out of a job

By Ian Moore, Lodge Court

If you're a recruiter, you know the feeling. You've finally found the perfect candidate for an open role, and they've accepted your offer. But then, just before their start date, they pull out of the job. Ian Moore of HR consultancy Lodge Court explains how you can stop this in future.

When someone pulls out of a role it's a frustrating situation, and unfortunately, it's becoming more and more common. A recent study from Gartner found that 44% of job seekers are accepting offers and then backing out, with 46% of those doing so because they received a better offer elsewhere. We’re unsure about the remaining 54% but cold feet could be a cause.

What's the impact? Not only have you lost a great candidate, but you've also wasted time and money on the recruitment process. And, the team who were expecting someone to share their workload now has to rearrange their plans and resourcing.

So what can you do to prevent your new starter from pulling out at the last minute?

Ensuring you have a committed and excited new starter begins with the offer letter. Make sure the offer outlines all of the key details of the role, including start date, salary, and benefits. This will set expectations from the outset and help avoid any misunderstandings further down the line.

It should also be tailored to the individual, reflecting their specific needs. For example, could you offer a flexible working arrangement to parents? Or perhaps additional holiday allowance for those who love to travel? This insight would have been gathered during the interview process so show you were paying attention and give them an extra special reason to join your company.

Once the offer letter is signed, stay in touch with your new starter frequently. Check in to see how their notice period is going, and if there's anything you can do to help with the transition. This is something that you or the line manager can do and regular contact will help build a relationship and make them feel valued, appreciated, and supported - three essential ingredients for a happy employee.

Speaking of building relationships, it will help if your new starter knows their team and their line manager before they start work.

To facilitate this, you could organise a team lunch or coffee meeting so they can start getting to know everyone in their department. Or, if remote working is more your thing, set up a video call or webinar so they can virtually meet the team. These small touches will make a big difference to how welcomed and supported your new starter feels. Not only that, but it will give them another person they can ask questions of should they not feel comfortable raising certain issues with their line manager.

For their first day, it's likely you will have a plan in place for their induction. This should include an introduction to the company culture, values, and mission as well as a tour of the office or workplace. It's also a good idea to introduce your new starter to as many people as possible on their first day, so they feel like a valued member of the team from the get-go. As well as this, you'll get them set up with their workspace, computer, and any other equipment they need. There may also be time to give them a few tasks or training.

Now, it's all well and good that you know the plan ahead of time but the trick to keeping your new starter is to share the plan with them in advance too. It's become an expectation when someone starts a new job that IT won't be ready or they won't have anything to do, making the first day awkward and a bit dull. Why not smash that misconception by showing how organised your business is by giving them a schedule for their first day (if not their first week) so they can start preparing for it?

You could even give them a little welcome pack to help ease them into their new role. This doesn't have to be anything major, just a few items that will make their first day or week that little bit easier. Think stationery, a company notebook, water bottle, and snacks. You could also include some information on the local area - where to eat, drink, and shop - as well as a list of nearby gyms or leisure centres if they're looking to join one.

The communication you have between your new starter accepting the offer letter and starting their role is also important for picking up any signs that they may be having cold feet about the role. For example, if they're unresponsive to your emails or calls, this could be a sign that they're getting nervous about the move. If this is the case, have an honest conversation with them about their concerns and see if there's anything you can do to ease their worries.

It's also wise to refer back to your interview notes to check for any red flags that could indicate they may not be ready for the role. For example, if they said they're not great with change or are looking for a role that's more relaxed, this could mean the fast-paced environment of your company isn't right for them. In this case, it might be best to have a conversation about their expectations for the role and whether it's something you can realistically provide.

Of course, sometimes there's nothing you can do to prevent a new starter from pulling out of their job. In this case, it's important to remember that it's not personal and there are often extenuating circumstances beyond your control. The most important thing is that you handle the situation professionally and with empathy, making sure to keep the lines of communication open in case they have a change of heart. Also, keep other candidates warm so you have a back-up plan.

By following these steps, you can help to ensure that your new starter is happy and engaged from the moment they sign their offer letter, all the way through to their first day at work.